The first time David Gilmour ever played at the RAH, with Pink Floyd in 1969, the venue banned the band for life for letting off a pink smoke bomb. Within eight months Floyd had been forgiven.
Forty-six years on, he fits right in. The lights, films and graphics emanating from above the Hall’s organ are the definition of ‘spectacular’, and if Gilmour and his band aren’t charismatic performers in the flesh – neither were Floyd – then because of the visuals, you don’t notice. There’s a proud heritage of symbols, signals and Versailles mirrors to live up to for any Floyd alumnus, and by end of this three-hour show we’ve witnessed revolving suns and moons and are standing within a shimmering grid of green lasers. As Gilmour’s solos on Comfortably Numb come in waves, some Floyd fans are weeping with joy in the aisles.
This is, suck it up, as close to an all-in Pink Floyd show as will happen now; Gilmour and Waters couldn’t pass the salt without resentment.
The former balances business and ‘best of’ well. New solo album Rattle That Lock is promoted slickly, and has both welcome and workmanlike moments. The audience nod politely (these songs just don’t have the history), but blossom into full consciousness when the Floyd cultural landmarks appear. In the first set Gilmour gives us Wish You Were Here, Money and Us And Them. That fusion of Waters’s jaded words and Gilmour’s graceful, sleepy voice rings true and cuts deep again. The musicians, chiefly veterans of ‘Gilmour-era Floyd’ – plus the man, who our host, in a rare lapse into speech, introduces as “the legend that is Phil Manzanera” – honour the legacy.
The last time Gilmour played here, nine years ago, David Bowie famously strolled out to trot through Arnold Layne. Tonight’s guests are the white-haired David Crosby and Graham Nash, who harmonise heartily on A Boat Lies Waiting and On An Island.
It’s in the second set when the tigers break free. Opening with a visceral, pounding Astronomy Domine (not even one of ‘his’ Floyd tracks), the energy level gets on its bike and walls tumble. Playing the four-note intro to Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1 – 5) must by now be for Gilmour what it’s like for Art Garfunkel clearing his throat before Bridge Over Troubled Water, but its stately serenity remains a thing of burnished beauty. And Fat Old Sun has evolved greatly from its Atom Heart Mother birth.
There’s a lull during which the audience sit on their hands through the new lounge-jazz number Girl In The Yellow Dress, then a lurch into mania for Run Like Hell. As this stomps ferociously, lights blinding, one lone guy starts dancing off-piste. He’s first sniggered at. Then a few join him, then a few more, then the whole hall throws off its mental chains and gets wiggy. This probably says something profound about the habits of us sheep, but Gilmour tends to leave such creased-brow analysis to Waters and focuses on the music stuff.
At which, of course, he is supremely capable. His guitar weeps like an Italian widow through the elevated encore, as Time and Breathe (Reprise) warm us up for the grandiose Comfortably Numb, a song about a narcissistic rock star that somehow speaks volumes to us all, with Crosby and Nash sharing the vocals. Strangers in the audience hug each other, thus hindering their air guitar moves.
This show isn’t just echoes, or ghosts. In its peaks, in Gilmour’s most heaven-bent notes, it kisses the sky.